Harrison Smith Acknowledges Vikings Main Problem

The Hitman Shall Return
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) runs out onto the field at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings own a wee bit of momentum heading into Week 5, knocking off the Carolina Panthers on the road last Sunday, 21-13.

Minnesota desperately needed a win to maintain a playoff heartbeat, earning it in Charlotte thanks to a defensive touchdown from D.J. Wonnum and two scores by Justin Jefferson.

Harrison Smith Acknowledges Vikings Main Problem

Moreover, longtime Vikings safety Harrison Smith did his part to hold off the Panthers, notching a mammoth 14 tackles, 3 sacks, and the forced fumble. He caused the fumble that Wonnum scooped for a touchdown, completely changing the Vikings probability of winning.

Smith Acknowledges
Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) celebrates with linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) after a sack in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Fast forward to Wednesday, and Smith joined ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show to discuss Minnesota’s 1-3 season and was predictably asked about the difference between the 13-4 Vikings from 2022 and this year’s 1-3 group.

“I’d say the main difference is the turnover differential. Not making enough on defense. Not holding onto it as well as we should in those early games, special teams and offense. We’re working to correct that,” Smith replied.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota recorded a mind-boggling 11-0 record via one-score games in 2022, catapulting the club to its first division title in five years. Then, 2023 arrived, and the Vikings lost their first three contests, all within a one-score margin. Not ideal.

McAfee also asked Smith if Week 4 was the best game of his life. He opined, “It’s a big stat game. As a safety, sometimes your best games are low-stat games. You cover well. You do your assignment. From a stat standpoint, that one was pretty good, I guess.”

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) and New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore (8) in action during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith is correct about the turnovers — emphatically. More and more in 2023, the Vikings feel like a good team with a turnover disease. They’ve turned the ball over at a worst-in-the-NFL clip, and that type of stat will generate a losing record for anybody, even elite teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills.

On the other hand, Minnesota isn’t forcing turnovers, either. The Brian Flores defense is banking just 0.8 takeaways per game, not enough to balance the offense and special teams fumble + interception problem. Through four games, the Vikings own a -8 turnover differential, mentioned by Smith, also known as second-worst in the business, just ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders (-9).

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Theoretically, the Vikings could fulfill Smith’s request, stop the silly turnovers, force a few — and probably rattle off more wins. Yet, at some point, they actually have to do it and not merely explain how the team could be efficient eventually.

Possessing a 1-3 record with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs heading to Minneapolis in three days is not ideal for a get-right game.

But if Smith fires up a few sacks and forced fumbles, well, the Chiefs are beatable.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.